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SPARTAN News—Winter 2023

Volume 9 Issue 1

Dear Lisa,

2023 marks the 50th anniversary of the discovery of the association between HLA-B27 and ankylosing spondylitis. Two groups, one from University of California, Los Angeles and the other from Westminster Hospital in London, UK, independently published this finding in 1973 (Schlosstein et al. NEJM 1973, Brewerton et al. Lancet 1973). The rest is history. Importantly though, it was the association with AS that was reported in 1973. HLA-B27 itself had been discovered a few years earlier by the Norwegian immunologist Eric Thorsby who performed human-to-human skin graft experiments to induce novel HLA-specific antisera. Originally named FJH (the initials of the HLA-B27 positive skin donor), it was labeled W27 at the 4th International Histocompatibility Workshop in 1970 and renamed HLA-B27 in a later nomenclature update.

Fast forward 50 years. Even though we still don’t fully understand the mechanisms of the association, we might be finally moving closer. Several recent studies reported an enrichment of a conserved TCR beta motif in CD8+ T cells in HLA-B27+ AS patients confirming similar findings with CD8+ T cell clones from the 1990s. The most recent study from Chris Garcia’s group at Stanford University used single-cell TCR-seq to study CD8+ T cells in synovial fluid and aqueous humor from HLA-B27+ patients with AS and acute anterior uveitis (Yang et al. Nature 2022). Clonally expanded TCR alpha and beta pairs were identified and expressed as recombinant T cell receptors to screen for HLA-B27 restricted peptides using a technique called yeast display. Several candidate peptides derived from microbial and endogenous protein were identified that await further study. Could it be that the arthritogenic peptide hypothesis ultimately turns out to be correct?

To learn more about HLA-B27 and its role in SpA, please join us at the 2023 SPARTAN Annual Meeting in May in Cleveland, OH. The meeting planning committee led by Marina Magrey has created an exciting program that will include a session devoted to the HLA-B27 anniversary. The scientific meeting will be preceded by a one-day Spondyloarthritis Review Course (formerly known as Trainee Symposium). This name change reflects our intention to broaden the target audience of this traditional educational activity to non-trainees including rheumatology advanced practice providers.

Registration for the 2023 Annual Meeting is open. See you in Cleveland!

Joerg Ermann, MD


The SPARTAN Board of Directors gathered last December in Atlanta for the annual strategic planning session.

left->right: Runsheng Wang, Matt Stoll, Marina Magrey, Joerg Ermann, Lisa Spiegel, Kristi Kuhn, Maureen Dubreuil, Judy Smith, Nigil Haroon

SPARTAN Projects

2022 was a landmark year for the CLASSIC study and SPARTAN. The last of 501 patients was recruited in August 2022 and database lock occurred the following October. The SPARTAN and ASAS databases were merged in November and the first meeting of the ASAS and SPARTAN CLASSIC steering committees occurred on December 5, 2022. This conjoint committee reviewed the descriptive data on a total of 1015 CLASSIC patients and made decisions on the definitions of SpA items and the outstanding adjudications of the imaging data that were still necessary. A follow-up meeting of this conjoint committee was held on Feb 12, 2023, to make decisions on the final statistical analysis plan. The primary analyses must be kept confidential and under embargo as the results of these analyses will be presented at a EULAR 2023 symposium in Milan. However, data and study issues of interest to the SPARTAN community that does not compromise the analysis of the primary study objectives or contravene the EULAR embargo will be presented at the SPARTAN 2023 annual meeting.

Planning for the Biomarkers in Axial Spondyloarthritis Investigative Study (BASIS) continues with recent selection of a contract research organization to help manage this large project. After an open call for proposals and evaluation of several competitive bids for the project by the BASIS Steering Committee, the SPARTAN Board approved CARE Arthritis to work alongside the biorepository at Cleveland Clinic in the management of BASIS. The Steering Committee is now in the process of finalizing the projected BASIS budget and entering into funding conversations with study partners.

The EIDA team has been working hard to educate our non-rheumatologist colleagues about Axial Spondyloarthritis! We have delivered 15 talks (11 virtual, 4 in person) and reached an estimated 825 learners. 13 talks are lined up for 2023 so far.

Do you have a contact for a group of physical therapists, chiropractors, primary care physicians, orthopedic physician assistants, or physiatrists who you think could benefit from our talk?

Please contact or We offer virtual or in person talks and the scale that ranges from a local Grand Rounds to a National Conference. There is a stipend for the presenter.

Calling All Rheumatology Advanced Practice Providers

SPARTAN is seeking our members’ help to recruit Nurse Practitioners or Physician Assistants for membership!

These may be individuals with a clinical focus in SpA or inflammatory arthritides in general, or those who participate in trials or other research. 

SPARTAN Associate membership requires only an interest in SpA and includes reimbursement for SPARTAN annual meeting related travel, and qualification to join SPARTAN committees.

Please encourage NPs and PAs interested in SpA to apply for SPARTAN membership and to attend the Spondyloarthritis Review Course May 18, 2023

SPARTAN Membership Application

Call For Abstracts

Submission deadline for SPARTAN abstracts is extended to Friday

Grant Opportunities

Laying the foundation for the next generation of researchers and leaders in Spondyloarthritis is SPARTAN's mission. In line with SPARTAN's vision to accelerate research in the field of Spondyloarthritis and to improve the care of patients with Axial Spondyloarthritidies, the SPARTAN announces the Early Career Investigator Award to support early career Investigator who are working in the field of Axial Spondyloarthritis.

Mentored Fellowship Award

With the aim of encouraging fellows to take up research projects under mentors with expertise in SpA, SPARTAN will support up to 2 pilot projects. The goal is to support the early stages of a fellow-led research project to generate preliminary data that will support grant applications to funding agencies such as the NIH.

A total of $10,000 is allocated to cover each new grant in with a maximum of $5,000 per fellow and $5,000 per mentor. This will be a combined application by the fellow and mentor.

Read more....

Early Career Investigator Award

The goal is to support the early stages of a research project to generate preliminary data that will support mentored career development grant applications to funding agencies such as the NIH and the Rheumatology Research Foundation.

A maximum of 2 new grants will be supported each year. A maximum of $25,000 will be allocated per project per year for two years (for a total of $50,000 per awardee).


The Spondylitis Association of America hopes to encourage new, upcoming rheumatologists and researchers to focus on the future of treatment and research in ankylosing spondylitis and related diseases. SAA created the Bruckel Early Career Investigator Award, which recognizes outstanding contributions to the care and understanding of patients with spondyloarthritis. The winner receives a $30,000 grant. Applications open in May. ...More information

Membership update

The SPARTAN Governance Committee has approved the following membership changes and welcomes our new members

Full Members:

John Carrino, Akihiro Nakamura (from Associate), Michael Paley, Monica Guma

Associate Members:

Rahul Dalal, Patricia Remalante-Rayco

Trainee Member:

Swetha Alexander

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Save the Dates

EULAR | May 31-June 3 | Milan

GRAPPA | July 13-15 | Dublin

ACR Education Exchange | April 28 – 30 | Orlando

CARRA | March 27-29 | New Orleans

PRYSM | March 29 – April 1 | New Orleans

ACR Convergence November 10 – 15 | San Diego

Thank you for the Support of our Industry Partners

SPARTAN is a network of health care professionals in North America who are dedicated to research, awareness and treatment of spondyloarthritis. SPARTAN is funded through educational grants from companies with an interest in this area of medicine.

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